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FFA reform promise appeases A-League clubs

NZN 2/02/2017 Emma Kemp

For now at least, Football Federation Australia has appeased angry A-League clubs, who will come to the table on a promise for constitutional reform by the end of March.

FFA chairman Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop found themselves in the firing line over this week's whirlwind trip to Zurich for high-level FIFA meetings. The agenda had local governance reform front and centre.

As the pair sat down with president Gianni Infantino, anxious A-League clubs reached boiling point, worried structural changes to broaden Australia's representation of stakeholders could be postponed or scrapped.

Whatever was said behind closed doors - FFA denied various claims that Lowy and Gallop had attempted to delay long-awaited reform - the result appeared initially positive.

Australia's governing body on Friday said it would honour last September's commitment to implement change by the FIFA-imposed deadline of March 31.

It pledged to consult with stakeholders, including clubs, member federations and the players' union, to agree on a new, expanded assembly in a move to address concerns about the lack of democratic process in FFA board elections.

Clubs, united in their campaign for a bigger say, had accused FFA of breaking its promise and looked set to push harder for an independently run A-League.

But the reassurance was welcomed collectively by the 10 franchises via their association, the Australian Professional Football Clubs' Association (APFCA).

"Our members are committed to a meaningful and transparent process and an outcome that creates the appropriate democratic representation of the whole football family within the FFA General Assembly and creates constitutional and governance alignment with FIFA statutes," the APFCA said in a statement.

As it stands, only 10 voters elect board members, the lowest electorate of any FIFA member nation.

The 10 A-League clubs have one vote, while A-League, W-League and Matildas players have no influence.

FFA also drew criticism over the process that led to former chairman Frank Lowy handing the reins to his son Steven unopposed in November 2015.

Lowy said he was confident the organisation could "move quickly to put in place some changes to our structure that will set the game up for further success in the years ahead".

Should they not be agreed and implemented by March 31, FFA will risk facing FIFA sanctions including, in the worst case, suspension.

FFA said Infantino still intended to reschedule his postponed visit to Australia sometime this year.

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